Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board Chairman Mike Kelley says he’s taking a deep breath. Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate coordinator Graig Meyer is avoiding speaking in the past tense. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools Foundation director Kim Hoke sees a contract that hasn’t been renewed. The schools’ spokesperson isn’t speaking and the superintendent is referring all questions to a prepared statement.
“Until that time, I will not comment further regarding my future plans,” Pedersen states.
“The 2010-11 school year will present a normal array of challenges to my administration with respect to student achievement and dismal financial forecasts. Regardless of my decision, I need to devote my full attention every day throughout this year to providing leadership to this district as it faces these challenges.”
With 18 years of service at the top, Pedersen is the longest tenured school leader in the state and in the history of his district. He’s helped maintain and expand a tradition of top tier public schools, making the community desirable for young families and leading to two new high schools and six new schools since 1994.
Pedersen, who is on vacation, says he has long planned to take this summer to consider his future. The school system celebrated 100 years in 2009. Now they could be looking for a new author for the next chapters.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Neil Pedersen released a statement today addressing recent speculation about his impending retirement, saying he will announce a decision at the school board's July 22 meeting.
He came to the district in 1987 as assistant superintendent for support services, and he has been credited with helping guide the system to among the top in the state. Pedersen will be eligible for full retirement benefits this year, he says.
You can find the full statement here. Read more in Wednesday's edition of the Indy.
Read the letter from UNC to DENR: UNC_response_to_DENR_penalty.pdf.
Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health, which awarded UNC a $14.5 million construction grant for an expansion of the Bingham Facility, has peppered the university with questions about a series of problems with the wastewater treatment system at the site.
In a letter to UNC, NIH Grants Management Specialist Christy Leake noted that the site “has had a few wastewater issues” and asked the university for further explanations about the repair and configuration of the wastewater treatment system, the citations from DENR and the existence of wetlands.
Read the NIH letter and UNC's response: NIH_letter_05122010.pdf"> NIH_response_for_C06_RR029912-01-_Bingham_Facility.pdf
In the original grant application, UNC stated incorrectly that no wetlands were on the property. After UNC mapped the site, it discovered several and reported the error to DENR. The state agency then cited UNC for encroaching on these protected areas.
“Although these incidents have been painfully embarrassing to the institution, they have also taught us some valuable lessons," wrote William Roper, dean of UNC Medical School, and Tony Waldrop, vice chancellor for research and economic development.
UNC acknowledged to the NIH and DENR that there were “problems with the design and construction of the wastewater treatment system.” UNC will not repair the current wastewater system, which has been closed for several months.
The original contractor for the project, Diehl & Phillips, has been replaced by McKim & Creed, which will design a new system.
According to the penalty letter, the lagoon liner had more than 100 places that needed to be patched because there were deep cuts, perforations or seam damage.
Jay Zimmerman, regional supervisor for the Aquifer Protection Section of the Division of Water Quality, told the Indy there were several factors in assessing the penalty, including the subsequent releases from leaking and broken pipes in the wastewater system.
The penalty could have been more severe—as much as $25,000 per violation per day.
UNC has 30 days to respond to the penalty. It can appeal it, pay it or ask that it be reduced.
In a letter to neighbors, associate vice chancellor Dwayne Pinkney wrote that UNC is not surprised by the penalty because DENR had advised the university it could be fined last December.
"Meanwhile, we are moving forward with a study of an integrated water system for the Bingham Facility that will treat the wastewater generated there to the level of reclaimed water, which addresses your concerns about water usage and water quality. We will continue to update DENR and Orange County on our progress, to make sure past mistakes are not repeated."
Mimi Kelly reports for the Indy on the "Great unleashing"
Known as the Transition movement, resilience is at its core. “Resilience is a system,” Rob Hopkins who founded Transitions in England in 2005, says on YouTube, “which, when it experiences shock from outside, it doesn’t fall to pieces. It has built into it the ability to adapt and change to meet circumstances.”
Transition of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will celebrate resilience at a daylong community gathering called an “unleashing” May 15 at the Carrboro Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St. Among the speakers is Norman L. Christensen, professor of ecology and founding dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environmental Sciences & Policy.
“Our resilience is increased by the ties we have with each other, says Margaret Kromes-Lukens, founder of the Carrboro/Chapel Transitions Town. The joy of this work “comes from neighbor helping neighbor.”
Other Transition towns are working on sustainability. Santa Cruz, Calif., is establishing a sustainable water commons that helps people, for example, “to hook up your laundry washer so water will irrigate your yard.”
Sandpoint, Idaho, is running an edible, medicinal and useful native plants workshop, while Berea, Ky., has a “50 X 25” plan. By 2025 they intend to reduce energy use by 50 percent. Starting with growing their own food, weatherizing houses, installing solar panels on all buildings, increasing walking and biking, and promoting “green building initiatives.”
How Chapel Hill and Carrboro will become more sustainable is for the residents to decide. For example, would the further development of local farms be an answer to food shortages that could arise from a rapid increase in gasoline prices that could slow or stop food shipments? Other solutions could include the creation of a seed exchange, a tool cooperative or a land share program in which people with spare land offer to potential gardeners.
“We do it from a well of passion” said Kathy Shea, a Transitions steering committee member.
The owner of Children’s University, a five-star preschool in Chapel Hill, arrived breathless and an hour late to her criminal trial this morning in Orange County Superior Court—and a lot of people were waiting for her: Representatives from the state Employment Security Commission, the plaintiff in today’s case, whom she owes $9,400 in back payroll taxes; and
eight seven teachers at the now defunct school whom she owes tens of thousands of dollars in back pay.
When the trial ended, McEntyre was crying, the ESC was only incrementally closer to getting it money and the employees were still upset.
McEntyre was a no-show at a civil hearing last month during which several employees successfully sued her for failing to pay them earlier this year. A magistrate ruled in favor of the employees, some of whom are owed as much as $5,000. But they may never see the money because McEntyre is reportedly deeply in debt. The employees attended today because they are considering filing criminal charges against her for allegedly knowingly issuing them bad checks.
Today’s criminal case focused on the 18 months’ worth of unpaid payroll taxes and the worthless $464 check McEntyre wrote to the ESC last year. Ming Tran, the ESC investigator in the case, told the court that McEntyre wrote a $464 check as part of a payment plan the state and McEntyre agreed to—and that the check bounced.
Toluene, ethyl glycol and propylene glycol were detected earlier this month after facility operators smelled an “unusual odor” coming from the septic tank of the domestic wastewater system, according to a letter sent yesterday from UNC to N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Water Quality.
These chemicals are being used in construction at the site and according to an e-mail sent from UNC to neighbors of the facility, it is believed the chemicals reached the septic tank through the sewer lines from the new building. The chemicals remain inside a storage area used for holding wastewater until it can be pumped and hauled away.
Toluene may affect the nervous system. Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped.
Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time can causes dizziness or sleepy. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death. High levels of toluene may affect the kidneys.
In a follow-up to our cover March 10 cover story, "Gaga for Google's fiber," we'd like to update metrics of the involvement of the Triangle's top three participants.
Durham's still ahead in Facebook presence, with 2,180 fans on its "Bring Google Fiber to Durham N.C.," page, while 935 people have signed up for "Bring Google Fiber to Raleigh!". The western part of the Triangle is not far behind: the Facebook group "Bring Google Fiber to Chapel Hill & Carrboro N.C." boasts 906 members.
The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. today at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to receive public comment regarding community interest in the fiber optic trial and how residents would use an ultra-high speed Internet network.
On Thursday, Durhamites hope to make a splash by corralling thousands of locals into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at 11 a.m. Thursday to spell out "We want Google" on the field, to pose for an aerial photograph. More here >>
Topeka municipal leaders renamed the town Google, Kansas. Others across the country are forming Facebook groups and bringing tech gurus together hoping to be selected for Google's high-speed Internet project.
Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC are forming a joint task force, holding a forum and inviting residents to complete a survey.
The group is geared toward becoming a pilot community for Google Fiber, a program announced last month that seeks to build and test Internet service that's one gigabit per second — 100 times faster than what's available today.
To qualify, towns of 50,000 to 500,000 people must apply by March 26 and demonstrate that they have adequate resources and infrastructure to make the partnership successful.
The forum is set for 7 p.m. March 15 at Chapel Hill Town Hall.
Read next week's Independent for a story on what else local municipalities are doing to try to woo Google.